The Authentic Prague Xmas - what not to miss!

If this is your first year studying in Prague, then get ready for a unique and magical Christmas experience! No other capital city can offer Prague’s snow covered alleyways, twinkling lights and quirky festive traditions. Expect the city to be full of Christmas spirit from November 29th (which marks the start of Advent) and read on for our guide to Christmas in Prague. Make sure you don’t miss a thing!

DEVILS, ANGELS AND ST. NICK

One highlight of the Czech Festive season is undoubtedly Mikuláš Eve. On December 5th, Svatý Mikuláš (aka Saint Nicholas, the protector of children) will be out wandering the streets, accompanied by a devil and an angel. This bizarre-looking trio question young children about their behavior over the past year, and hand-out either gifts or coal accordingly. Although this might appear quite alarming to foreigners studying here, many Czech families pay for actors or ask family friends to dress up and visit their homes to perform this ritual. Thankfully, most children are the lucky recipients of a bag of treats rather than a lump of coal.

IS THAT A FISH IN THE BATHTUB?

In the lead-up to the big day, you’ll undoubtedly see fish vendors popping up around Prague alongside tubs of live carp for sale. Indeed, you'll likely find the fish being sold just around the corner from UNYP Londýnská, not far from I.P. Pavlova Metro station. Fried carp is an essential part of the traditional Czech Christmas meal. The fish is often brought home alive and spends its final days swimming around in the bathtub, especially if there are small children in the family. It is finally killed on Christmas Eve – just in time to be breaded and fried, and served along with potato salad, soup and Christmas cookies. Some lucky fish have been known to escape the gutting knife altogether – with their young children traumatized by the thought of eating their new bathtub buddy, some parents show mercy and release the carp into the River Vltava.

 

CHRISTMAS MARKETS

One of the highlights of the season, Prague's Christmas markets are the epitome of the festive spirit. Wooden huts serving warming Svařák (mulled wine), spit-roasted pork, grilled klobása (sausage) and fresh trdlo (a round, sweet pastry) can be found at several locations around the city. The Old Town Square Christmas Market, which runs from November 28th to January 6th, is by far the most popular and surrounds the beautifully illuminated Christmas Tree. Here you can buy many different kinds of Christmas cookie as well as gingerbread, handmade decorations and that all-important mistletoe for your home.

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Students from abroad my be surprised to discover that Santa Claus doesn't deliver the presents in the Czech Republic – here, it's Baby Jesus himself that undertakes that annual chore. After the Christmas Eve meal, but before the children go to bed, “Ježišek” will sneak into the family home and place gifts around the tree. A small bell is rung to let excited children know he has visited and that the presents are ready to tear open!

DECK THE HALLS

Even if your Czech language skills stop at ‘dobry den’, it would be a shame to miss out on some of the wonderful Christmas carols concerts and festive movies while you’re studying in Prague. Many Czechs attend midnight mass on December 24th, and sing along to traditional Czech carols by Jan Jakub Ryba. A favorite TV fairy-tale, beloved by many children, is the movie classic ‘Three Nuts For Cindarella’ (Tři oříšky pro Popelku).

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